Monday, August 31, 2015

Season of Creation 1B: Earth Sunday

Season of Creation 1B, Earth SundayPsalm 33

Good people, cheer God!
    Right-living people sound best when praising.
Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!
    Play his praise on a grand piano!
Invent your own new song to him;
    give him a trumpet fanfare.

For God's Word is solid to the core;
    everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits,
    when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched
    in God's affectionate satisfaction.

The skies were made by God's command;
    he breathed the word and the stars popped out.
He scooped Sea into his jug,
    put Ocean in his keg.

Earth-creatures, bow before God;
    world-dwellers―down on your knees!
Here's why: he spoke and there it was,
    in place the moment he said so.

The Message

Sunday, August 30, 2015

1 Kings, 2 Kings: Set Apart

Set Apart: Holy Habits of Prophets and Kings – Women's Bible Study Participant Book by Jessica LaGrone on Amazon

set part book coverI don't know if the word is timely or serendipitous, but I do know I trust Abingdon, and how timely and serendipitous that this bible study parallels the Revised Common Lectionary readings for this summer! Ideally one might read, study, and pray through the six sections of five separate lessons with a group, but with my background in theology and scripture, I gained insight from studying Set Apart on my own. Each section's / week's focus lets the reader consider their own background in (1)consecration, (2)listening, being (3)mentored and mentoring another, (4)humility—along with careful explanations of what humility isn't and what humility is, (5)worship of God / smashing and otherwise exterminating our own idols, (possibly rediscovering) (6)scripture as King Josiah and his cohorts did, as scripture saturates our entire beings, transforms our lives and actions. Chapter format includes: read the text; reflect on it, think about it, respond to it; short prayer; possible relational, social, prayer, social, political actions connected to that particular lesson.

"Women's Bible Study," yet nothing in the scripture texts or in the lessons Pastor Jessica LaGrone presents wouldn't equally apply to guys or teenagers of either gender. Because I was on my own, the thirty lessons allowed me to read and study one per evening without going beyond my allotted time to review the book on amazon. Each was about the right length, with plenty of material to consider and ponder. Pastor Jessica intersperses additional Old Testament and New Testament passages into the total content that provides an excellent overview of the Hebrew Bible books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Although she includes some anecdotes and incidents from her own experience, it isn't overloaded with "I, me, and my," simply enough to help us relate the teaching to our own daily walk.

Jessica LaGrone is Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Seminary and pastors in the liberal, progressive, mainline United Methodist Church, but any Christian (guy, woman, teen) from any tradition could benefit from the perspective she brings. I love the size and shape of the book! I also like the additional sidebar content – some scripture, some observations – in the margins that also have enough space to write your own notes and comments. Set Apart is all-around outstanding; I'll be looking for more of almost the same.

my amazon review: outstanding!

Friday, August 28, 2015

head of the class friday 5

Deb hosts Friday 5+ about school and asks, It’s Back-to-School time! Are you that “A+ Student for life” or the King/Queen of Detention? RevGals want to know! We are all still learning (or re-learning) some kind of lessons!

Tell us about your learning edges in:

1. Reading: what’s in your “to-be-read” stack?

the call book coverAlthough I love Love LOVE ideas, I'm not much of a reader, but as an Amazon Viner I was ecstatic to get The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul by Adam Hamilton to review. So far I've read only two chapters, and as usual, I love Hamilton's practical scholarship and his attention to real life applications.

2. Writing: are you blogging? Journaling?...

Blog-related: I recently went through my entire 13-year old blog to be sure all book reviews had current amazon links and a cover image; to be sure all links were live and opened in a new window/tab, which meant antiquated asp and php pages had died, and some of them didn't have an automatic redirect to their current page or site. Because this is the 2nd decade of this century I made sure all images were large rather than thumbnails, because you know everyone has broadband.

What am I writing? Blogs: I've been doing Kate Montaung's Five Minute Fridays; I've been paper journaling some at the coffee shop, snack shop, and sandwich shop.

3. ‘Rithmetic: Family budget? Church budget? National debt?

Trying to keep afloat and also deal with the fact I still get a monthly paper bill / invoice / statement from the last entity my mortgage note went to, in spite of wisely and necessarily having gone through foreclosure during November 2013. My style with this one is also known as Head In The Sand. Between the County, HOA, and mortgage, I owe an amount close to the National Debt. My financial adviser, friend and former neighbor's Dad who's a title expert, told me that entity had "no legal authority to foreclose."

4. Music: favorite new hymn or worship band?

Still listening to a lot of Mary Chapin Carpenter! Since migrating up this way a couple months ago, both churches I've attended – PCUSA and ELCA – have exceptionally excellent, though very traditional music and liturgy. I want a bit of rocking praise, some music with a bit of edgy excitement and style, I'm also on the American Guild of Organists supply keyboard list. The placement guy added me very quickly and I've received several friendly, welcoming emails from him and the chapter dean! Very different from experience in Former City. Getting some Sunday, Saturday evening gigs may lead to meeting some fun people and learning interesting music.

5. Detention: uh huh... If you were supposed to report for detention today, what would be the note on the slip?

Talking, socializing in class.

Student for life here; I love being on campus, and as greedy as I am about learning, I'm not crazy about more formal virtual school. I took an online class in Cascading Style Sheets a few springs ago, so I know. However, we had mandatory chat once a week, and I enjoyed those interactions, especially since I sort of knew some of the other students from real life.

NorthBONUS: Recess!

RevGals just want to have fun! What’s your favorite way to unwind?

From summer 2008, here's my teaching edge. I LOVE teaching middle school age, so not surprisingly, I like teaching confirmation. I taught VBS during summers 2013 and 2014, but don't have pics of myself from either of those years, since I took most of the pics—and blogged some of them here. I've been enjoying walking through the Westwood neighborhood, and I'm looking forward to moving to the very exciting, noisy, colorful section of Korea Town, K-Town – next week. I've been grazing through the close to 9,000 local meetups, and hope to take in a few fun ones, and maybe a couple related to writing or art.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

five minute friday: alone

Every week Kate Montaung hosts Five Minute Friday; this time we get to write about alone for five minutes...!

"Alone!" raises a firestorm with me! As social as my nature tends to be, I'm also very much of a loner. But nothing prepared me for the loneliness, social isolation, and lack of community of these past too many years. It's such a long (sad) story I've tried to talk about some and blog telling the story buttonabout with as much clarity as possible (I've added this Five Minute Friday to my telling the story label), but no one seems to get it. Alone?! Yes, very much alone too much alone.

Creativity, ideas, typically have a source outside oneself. Creativity, ideas, do not self-generate alone by themselves. The theology that's my passion? I've written some interesting stuff – when I recently edited and updated my entire 13-year old blog to be sure all links were live and kickin', I discovered some astonishing theology – but without social context, it has been dry, sterile, and in itself very much alone, unconnected, with no organic connection to anything. Contradiction? Yes.

Fact is, you can't check out a text, scroll through your past experiences, and figure out what to say without currently being embedded in, connected to other people, also known as community. Besides, you can't write a sermon by yourself, without expecting to preach it. Somewhere. Creativity? My art and design never has happened in a vacuum, and though I'm currently working as, making a living as, a graphic designer, I haven't done any actual art for a long long time, because I cannot create art, I can't write poetry, I can't do anything other than grieve because this is alone. Lonely. Disconnected. Free-floating. I knew somehow I'd make a way back to mainstream society and mainline church, but still find myself alone and far away from both.

alone 5 minute friday icon

Thursday, August 20, 2015

five minute friday: find

Time for Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday! Find is this week's word! How does Five Minute Friday roll? Write for 5 minutes, unedited.

9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Luke 11

Seek and ye shall find. Find works both ways: I want to find, so I look for; I need to find, so I seek, peek, peer, dig, mine to find an answer, a person, idea — to find an object, a solution, another dream. Someone else may be seeking to find an idea, looking to find an inspiration from you. Or from me. Maybe to find a person, to find a friendship or relationship. Looking to find you?

In my everyday quest to find, I've sought, hoped for, aspired to, looked for, longed to find so much that's not physically present or actually current in my life—that passion to find in itself has become a daily presence, an ongoing current. In similar words, gospel writers Matthew and Luke both charge us to ask, to seek, to knock. To take action! Not to wait and expect heavenly bounty to fall unbidden from the sky! ...although we know it often does.

What do I seek to find? Community and justice. I seek to discover, to find, the surprise of shalom, to uncover and find the audible, visible, noisy reality of redemption all around me, the astonishment of my own life re-deemed, bought back again.

I long to find Jesus Christ still incarnate in the frailty of human flesh. As someone lonely, lost, forgotten, and broken, to find togetherness. To be found. I seek to find someone to re-member me, someone who does remember me from our past, who even sought to find me! I want to find myself put back together, rewoven, and found whole.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

5 minute friday: learn

Time again for Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday; "learn" is this week's word; how does this work? Write for 5 minutes, unedited.


Lately I've been learning again I really and truly do love the "thrill of the chase," as that pastor back then insisted! As I'd imagined, I've learned I really do love being in a Big City again, and already I feel better—as if feeling was where it's totally about, but you know feeling is at least partly where it's at, and here in Current City I've been more welcome and even started off by getting more opportunities than I did in Previous City.

Although I still don't enjoy reading beyond a 500-word internet article, I love Love LOVE ideas, and I've learned I'll need to continue reading books.

I've learned how strong, tough, and resilient I am after navigating life as well as I have the past too long. I also realize asking for help has been a sign of strength, but what do you do when they keep turning you down? Theologian Harvey Cox writes, "Violence is normative in The Fall."

I've learned my self-presentation truly is very competent and I generally come across as accomplished. Acquaintance in Previous City texted me, "you will thrive anywhere you go!" Thriving sure has not been my experience at all—in fact, my life has started to reweave and then unravel countless times, and I've been disappointed over and over by potential situations I knew were slam-dunks, but it's also energizing to know someone actually perceives me thus.

I've learned I cannot live without ways to express my creativity, especially as an artist/illustrator. designer.

I've learned there are truly welcoming churches: both nearby churches that sent me friendly emails about my housing requests have been friendly in real life and they've felt good, too.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

desert spirit's fire @ 13

desert spirit's fire is 13

2002-2015—thirteen years makes a baker's dozen years―it makes this blog a teenager!

In terms of internet and cyberspace, July 2002 truly was "back in the day." After I finished the year-long Community Economic Development certificate program in May 2002, I noticed a lot of people had started web logs or blogs. With The City and The Cities always front and center in my conscious and subconscious, a couple summers earlier I'd created an urban page in the old MSN groups, but despite having just finished the CED program that gave me yet another credential for urban/inner city ministry, why not concentrate on theology again? I made a long list of possible blog names, and chose desert spirit's fire for theological reasons, because it was easy to say, and sounded good.

Today's exactly four weeks after my official blogoversary, and please don't pay attention to the button on the sidebar that says it will happen in 45 days―I tried updating the code, and nothing changed. In the church we celebrate important days in 8-day spans of octaves; Easter, the most important feast, is 50 days―a week of weeks. Happy Very Belated Blogoversary, desert spirit's fire!

cake photo from Gracey on morguefile; picture decorated with Bombshell Pro typography by me as suntreeriver design

Monday, August 10, 2015

testimony tuesday: Elijah!

Today my Testimony Tuesday links to Testimony Tuesday on Holly Barrett's blog. and Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story.

Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.

1 Kings 19:7

Each day for the past week I've been reading that day's scripture study portion in a book I recently chose from Amazon Vine, Set Apart: Holy Habits of Prophets and Kings. It's sort of a combination book study and topical study (how cool is that?!) that had excellent reviews, I trust the United Methodist pub house Abingdon imprint, and I don't know the historical books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, or Chronicles nearly well enough.

It had to be inspired and serendipitous that the scripture passage, study, and refection on 1 Kings 19:1-11 I read Saturday evening featured the same text we heard at church Sunday morning! Everyone gets into depressive funks at times; many folks experience clinical depression. Maybe Elijah had clinical depression, or possibly he had severe existential depression—after all, he was a prophet, and you know prophecy is a heavy-duty calling! I love how this text addresses Elijah's exhaustion and discouragement with physical touch (twice!) and with an admonition to eat something (twice!)! Long ago I learned when I felt seriously discouraged and hopeless, I needed to eat something. Anything. Now! A little food of any kind would give me enough perspective to sort through whatever was happening that made me feel so terrible, and I learned I needed to have a good meal as soon as possible, as well. Or the journey will be too much...

For Sunday, 09 August – Pentecost 11 – the first reading in the Revised Common Lectionary was 1 Kings 19:4-8.

4But he [Elijah] himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors." 5Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, "Get up and eat." 6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

An angel's touch and some food sustained Elijah for a month-plus-long biblical period of forty days! At the end of June I moved from Border Town in Paradise to Urban Angels, aka Current City. It's been a long, long haul, and I'm still sorting through major chaos and disappointments of the past decades. I love the double reminder I need to eat well ("eat well" stands in for doing whatever I can to meet all my physical needs) and take care of my basic social needs, too—or the journey will be too much. After church on Sunday I uncharacteristically felt like going straight home and taking a nap, but they serve brunch every Sunday, and especially after two innings of this reading from 1 Kings I knew I needed food and literal companionship, so I noshed a make your own sandwich, salad, fresh fruit, and fresh ideas. For someone who wanted to head right home, in the end I even stayed longer than most everyone else!

testimony Tuesday

Tell His Story

Thursday, August 06, 2015

five minute friday: here

Time again for Kate Montaung's Five Minute Friday; "here" is word of the week and it's Kate's 1-year anniversary of hosting 5 minute Friday! Congrats to Kate!

You know how this works: write for 5 minutes, unedited.


This weeks "here" prompt instantly brought Marty Haugen's hymn "Gather Us In – Here In This Place" into my right here and right now.

Here in this place new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away;

Here we will take the wine and the water,
here we will take the bread of new birth,
here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.

here in this place new light is shining,
now is the kingdom, and now is the day.

"Here" and now are essential ways to live our lives. Although William Faulkner reminds us the past keeps overtaking the present minute by minute (in other words, it's never ever truly past, gone, and over), yet we only can live in this moment, this place. The future's not here yet, and physically – if not psychologically or in terms of memories – the past is long far gone. Over the past decade I've spent a lot of time, a whole lot of time, revisiting past places, people, and situations I'd love to duplicate to some extent in my future; I've tried imagining versions of past events into this here and this now. Good idea or a bad one? As long as it's not my sole mode of being, it can be helpful and healthy and hope-filled.

Whenever we celebrate The Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist we celebrate with all the people of God in every time and every place: past, present, and future. We bring past places and past times into this right now, into this right here; we reach into an unknown future as we retrieve and bring an eschatological here, a future full of justice, love, and shalom for all creation into this now, into this here. Jesus calls us, the HS enables us to re-member, re-create and anticipate now is the kingdom, and now is the day — here is the kingdom and here is the day.

I found quite a few videos of Gather Us In with lyrics on YT; here's one of them: Gather Us In

I'm taking a cue from Praying on the Prairie and formatting my last paragraph that's not part of my 5 minutes differently. My actual post is short, so I may have spent too much time remembering the words to "Gather Us In." And I especially love the picture Kate provided! As a designer I use a lot of fixed-width typewriter style fonts for my own design. I also love the boots and jeans look that I often rock during cooler weather—it's natural, preppy, and a bit retro, just like the typeface.

5 minute friday icon

At the Hammer Museum

Air and light and art on Thursday 06 August at the Armand Hammer Museum at UCLA.

scorched earth exhibit at the hammer museum another sky view at the hammer museum

sky view at the hammer museum perfect likeness at the hammer museum

succulents at the hammer museum sky view too at the hammer museum